Wayne Bennett has taken a swipe at the critics of the Dolphins’ supposed failure to land a big-name signing, insisting their incredible start to life as the NRL’s 17th franchise has been built on players who genuinely wanted to be there.
In the countdown to their first clash with crosstown rivals the Broncos, Bennett says the Dolphins’ unbeaten start to their foundation season means they can take the time to develop their own marquee superstar.
It comes as the Dolphins consider a judiciary appeal for Felise Kaufusi to be able to play in the derby after he was charged for a late tackle on Knights halfback Jackson Hastings during Friday’s 36-20 win in Newcastle.
The Dolphins have armed themselves with evidence of a tackle Roosters star Joseph Suaalii made only a week earlier in a possible bid to free to the Queensland State of Origin star.
The unlikely top-of-the-table clash and dawn of a new rivalry between the Dolphins and Broncos comes against the backdrop of a documentary detailing Bennett’s bid to put together a competitive roster.
While quickly panned for failing to land a high-profile playmaker, the Dolphins have made a mockery of pre-season predictions which had them wooden spoon favourites.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.Credit:Getty
They have won all three matches so far this season against the Roosters, Raiders and Knights, joining the Broncos as the only other team to do so.
“We needed to put a team together and the reality is how many marquee players are there in the NRL? There are 17 clubs,” Bennett said. “We’ll make our own marquee player. We have guys who have just wanted to come and play.”
The Dolphins have already announced the signings of Broncos stars Herbie Farnworth and Thomas Flegler for next season, with both expected to line up against their future employers on Friday night.
The Broncos warmed up for the first Brisbane derby between the teams with a late four-try, 10-minute burst to sink the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. The same venue will be sold out for the Dolphins-Broncos match.
Kaufusi’s hopes of featuring in the match could hinge on a potential judiciary hearing, but the Dolphins will wait until Monday morning before confirming a challenge to a grade two dangerous contact charge for his hit on Hastings.
The club had been poring over vision of Suaalii’s tackle on Warriors fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in round two, which the match review committee deemed only a grade one dangerous contact charge.
Suaalii was able to play in the Roosters’ win over the Rabbitohs on Friday after paying a $3000 fine.
Like Suaalii, Kaufusi has already been charged a minimum three times in the past 12 months and will need to be successful seeking a downgrade to avoid a ban.
Felise Kaufusi’s place in the NRL’s inaugural Brisbane derby hangs in the balance after the Dolphins forward was charged for a late tackle.Credit:Getty
“I can find grounds for Felise to fight that,” Queensland coach Billy Slater told The Footy Show. “I think he pulled out of it late and I think when the ball left Jackson’s hands, he was committed.”
But if Kaufusi were to be unsuccessful at the judiciary he would be suspended for four matches, which would include games against the Broncos, Dragons, Cowboys and Rabbitohs. He can still take three games with an early guilty plea for the grade two charge.
Meanwhile, Warriors forward Mitch Barnett has been cleared of serious injury and was able to fly home with his teammates after clutching at his neck following an incident in his side’s upset win over the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Barnett was taken to hospital for precautionary scans with neck and shoulder pain after falling awkwardly under a tackle from Gehamat Shibasaki, but was reported to be free in his movement on Sunday.
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